1 Peter part 11 – Likewise, wives, be subject: It’s not What you Think


1 Peter part 11

Likewise, wives, be subject: It’s not What you Think

1 Peter 2:13-3:6



Before we jump directly into our text – which is 1 Peter 3:1-6, there are 2 things worth noting to assist us in keeping on track, and both interpreting and applying this text.


In so doing, these 2 things are useful in all of our Bible study, not just this passage.


1. You no doubt noticed that the reading we had just had done for us – began back in ch. 2:13.


CONNECTING THOUGHTS: The word “LIKEWISE” in 3:1 is your clue. It is an appeal to what has come immediately before.


And what came immediately before were 2 examples of how Christians are to relate to secular and unsympathetic authorities: 13-17 was couched in being sure these persecuted Christian were still able to “honor the emperor” (17).


18 – 25 Had to do with Christian servants (or slaves or employees) relating to their masters – even unjust masters.


Learning to suffer injustice without retaliation or rebellion.


And the goal of this instruction was ultimately – evangelistic. Making the contrary-to-the-world Spirit of Christ highly visible.


In both, the same principle was being articulated: As God’s royal priesthood in this world, we are NEVER to respond sinfully, to sin inflicted upon us.


Injustice never gives us leave to act out of order.


Now, coming to the home and understanding God’s arrangement in the household, the same principle holds true.


Someone else acting sinfully or poorly, can never be the Believer’s excuse for breaking God’s order or acting sinfully in return.


We are to be above that.


We’ll unpack that more precisely in a moment.


2. PERSONAL APPLICATION: The second thing we need to remind ourselves of in good Bible study – is that it is an abuse of the Word, to see how passages apply to others, without considering how they apply to ourselves first.


As we saw in looking at Proverbs 31 – it is a common problem in the Church for men to look at a passage like this one and rub some woman’s nose in it and say “See, this is what you ought to be living up to!”

Or, a wife can do the same with the passage that follows.


In each of these cases, our sinfulness is revealed in how we read the Word to enforce it respecting others, rather than see what it is saying to me in MY sin and circumstance.


So, if you come away from your study of the Word armed with things to impose upon others, rather than humbled by how YOUR sin has been exposed and needs dealt with in Christ – you are abusing the Bible.


With those 2 things in mind then, let’s look at the text.


V1 – “LIKEWISE” – Just as none of us are to respond sinfully to our government, even in its corruption; nor perhaps our masters or employers, even in their corruption, so Christian wives, LIKEWISE, learn not to respond sinfully to your husbands, even when they sin.


Peter insists this applies even if that husband is NOT a Christian – which is most likely what is meant by the phrase “even if some do not obey the Word.”


Do not use your husband’s sins or shortcomings, nor his status as an unbeliever – as an excuse to respond in sinful ways, or as an indication they have abdicated their role in this home before God, because they fail to execute it well.


What is interesting – is what Peter says in vss. 5–6 “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”


His citation of Sarah is really interesting here.  Mainly, because the only place in Scripture that Sarah called Abraham “Lord”, was in her heart, in Genesis 18:12.


So one wonders, whatever might Peter mean?


It was in my own study at this point that I went back to build a bit of a biographical sketch of Sarah to try and get a handle on Peter’s thought.


And what we find, is a fascinating study, which sheds some real light on understanding what the Holy Spirit is driving home in her example.


Gen. 11:30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child: She was no stranger to disappointment perhaps frustration and lack of fulfillment.

Gen. 11:31 In a patriarchal society, she was removed from the familiarity of her upbringing and the wealth and cosmopolitan atmosphere of Ur, was moved to a foreign place, and then suffered the loss of her father-in-law.

Gen. 12 – Sarai is uprooted once again, this time from a place of apparent prosperity to an unknown place in Canaan. Abram is 75 at this point.

Gen. 12:10 – Now they face famine, and have to move again – this time to Egypt.

Gen. 12:11-20 – Sarai is victim to Abram’s fearful interactions with the Egyptians which finds her abducted by the Egyptians and in the middle of a hot mess until God delivers them.

Gen. 13:1 – On the move again, Abram moves them to the Negeb. A quasi-desert region known for little rainfall and arid conditions.

Gen. 13 – The Negeb appears to be unsuitable to sustain the large amount of livestock Abram had accrued, so he moves them yet again back to Bethel where he had previously built and altar to the Lord.

Gen. 13 – Once back in Bethel, family strife breaks out between Abram and Lot. Lot leaves and goes to live near Sodom, and Abram stays and settles where he is. Sarai is further isolated from her family. And in 17, Abram moves yet again to the “Oaks of Mamre” near Hebron.

Gen. 14 – Life is not all roses. The 5 Kings war breaks out and Lot and all his are abducted and carried off. Sarai sits by while Abram takes 318 men from his household and pulls off a daring rescue of Lot and all the others abducted. Immediately after, Abram is met by Melchizedek.  The strange contradiction of Abraham’s courage at chasing down 5 kings and their armies with only 318 men, yet his inability to stand between Sarai and Hagar is highlighted.

Gen. 15 – At their advanced ages, Abram is promised to have a son of his own as an heir, even tho Sarai is once again termed “barren.”

Gen. 16 – After 10 years of God’s promise of a son not happening, Sarai – perhaps broken hearted at her own ability to conceive and not wanting to see her husband not have the son he so desperately wanted – suggests that maybe a surrogate is the way to go. She puts forward Hagar her handmaid as the candidate.

Gen. 16 – Instead of solving the problem, it generates even more. Hagar begins to imagine herself as more primary to Abram than Sarai, and caught between them – Abram wishing to protect Sarai’s status in the household, tells her that even tho Hagar may have borne the child, Sarai is STILL the mistress of the household and Hagar is STILL under her authority and in weakness, dumps the whole mess back in Sarai’s lap.

Gen.16  – After Hagar’s attempt at running away – Sarai receives her back into the household along with Ishmael. This had to have been hard, as well as an extraordinarily painful reminder both of her infertility, and of her animus against Hagar due to her own decision to give Hagar to Abraham in the first place.

Gen. 17 – Sarah endures the situation for 13 years with no hope of anything changing, barring a miracle.

Gen 17 – Sarah’s name is changed – and she is incredulous at the prophecy of her still having a child.

Gen. 19 – Sarah calls Abraham “Lord” in her heart.

Gen. 19 – Sarah witnesses the supernatural destruction of Sodom.

Gen. 20 – Abraham is on the move again – this time to Gerar. And once again Sarah is victim to Abraham’s cowardice and drawn into his deception of Abimelech.

Gen. 21 – Isaac is born, and once again animosity between Sarah and Hagar explodes – and once again Abraham shows his weak character in failing to deal with it.

Gen. 22 – The Scripture is strangely silent on Sarah’s experience of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac. But we cannot imagine no impact on her at all.

Gen. 23 – Sarah dies at Hebron – after yet another move by Abraham.


Virtually never having true roots to put down in one place.

Living with the wonder AND the contradiction of Abraham’s faith and obedience to God on the one hand, and his weakness and fearfulness on the other.

Yet he is her husband. And she sticks with him through it all.

And Peter would hint – without fear and giving in to inner churning all the time.

What a wonder indeed!


Peter’s point? A Believing wife ought to submit to an unbelieving husband, the same way she would submit to a believing husband.


How many a gal has thought if I could just get a godly husband, what heaven that would be!


And by invoking Sarah & Abraham – Peter demonstrates that godly men, even prophets like Abraham, can also be real jerks at times!


And the fact they ARE jerks, doesn’t dissolve the order in the home God has ordained.


So how IS a wife to respond well in such circumstances? 3:1  SUBMIT


What EXACTLY does it mean to be “SUBJECT” to your husband?        That is the $50,000 question.


This “subjection” is located in 3 things principally: 3 couplets.


1. V2 – “RESPECTFUL and PURE conduct.

RESPECTFUL – Not throwing off the order God proscribes for the home.


“In Greco-Roman society it was expected that the wife would have no friends of her own and would worship the gods of her husband (Plutarch, Advice §19).”[1]


Not using his failing as an excuse to usurp his rightful place, and being careful to protect his reputation and standing in society.


Going along as far as she possibly can – without violating her conscience before God.


PURE / UPRIGHT / CHASTE – Not looking to someone or something else for what is lacking in your man. Faithful to the marriage covenant.


And to do that in a…

2. V 4 – GENTLE and QUIET spirit. Maintaining an inward repose that rests in Christ’s sovereignty and prevents division and conflict.

Sarah was not afraid to speak her mind or face Abraham when she needed to. BUT – apparently, she did not do so in a panic. She could do it calmly, clearly, and not being driven by inward agitation.


From the rest of the context it appears that this gentle and quiet spirit is located mainly in a lack of fretfulness, which often spills over into nagging, manipulating, etc. Not being frightened by frightening things. That is a tall order, and a very high call.


Note that in 3:15 – these very same 2 things, respect and quietness are applied to ALL Christians – men AND women undergoing difficulty at the hands of those who are not respectable.


And so continuing…

3. V 6 – DOING GOOD and being UNAFRAID. Continuing to be Christ-like in responses, and TRUSTING the LORD, more than the circumstance or your husband.


2 Questions:


1. Why would a Believing Wife SUBMIT to an Unbelieving husband?


V 3 – That “they may be won”.

“Peter’s concern that Christian wives continue to submit to their own husbands not only shields Christianity from the accusation that it is a social evil but is also clearly motivated by evangelistic intent. The unbelieving husband observes virtues in the wife’s good demeanor that are motivated by her relationship with Christ, virtues not inferior to those motivated by Greek moral philosophy. Observing this, the man himself may be won to Christ “without words,” for in that culture it is shameful for the wife to presume to instruct her husband (which may also be a concern in 1 Tim. 2:11–12). Here is a situation where silence is the more effective means of communication.[2]


HOW would a Believing wife SUBMIT to an Unbelieving husband?

  1. V2 – “RESPECTFUL and PURE conduct.
  2. V 4 – GENTLE and QUIET spirit.
  3. V 6 – DOING GOOD and being UNAFRAID.


Why these three?


Because submission has more to do with submitting to God’s PLANS, PURPOSES and PROVIDENCE, than it does to submitting to a person.


How much more in a marriage where both are Believers?


“Witness the power and position a Believing woman has because of Christ.  [the husband] also sees in this affirmation that his wife’s or slave’s submission is motivated no longer by the expectations of Roman society or the principles of Greek moral philosophy but instead by the authority and example of the crucified and resurrected Christ.[3]


The Christian wife takes up this challenge in being subject to her husband NOT so that men look or feel better. She does it because she is on a mission.

To an unsaved husband, to be the means of his conversion.


To the saved husband, she is in partnership with him to manifest Jesus Christ in this fallen world so as to see many brought to Christ.


She is serving God faithfully and powerfully in a ministry of reconciliation.


Seeing men and women they come into contact with, brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through Spirit filled living, above culturally dominated living.


This, is ministry!


And as always, we need to point you back to what it is Christ won for Believers when H rose from the dead and ascended on high.


i.e. – The sent, and indwelling Holy Spirit.


Such a ministry can only be undertaken by walking in constant, conscious, deliberate dependence upon the Spirit of God.

[1] Jobes, Karen H. 2005. 1 Peter. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[2] Jobes, Karen H. 2005. 1 Peter. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[3] Jobes, Karen H. 2005. 1 Peter. (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

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